A court in Thailand on Monday sentenced two theatre activists to two and a half years in prison each for insulting the country’s monarchy.
The pair was involved in producing a play called “The Wolf Bride” about a fictional monarch and his adviser. It was performed at Bangkok’s Thammasat University in 2013 to mark the anniversary of a successful 1973 anti-dictatorship uprising led by students.
Thailand’s lese majeste law is the world’s harshest, carrying a punishment of three to 15 years in jail for anyone who defames, insults, or threatens the monarchy. Anyone can file a lese majeste complaint with police, and the charge has frequently been used as a weapon to harass political enemies. In this case, a group calling itself the Royal Monarch Alert Protection Network filed the complaint.
The pair, a university student and a recent graduate who are both in their 20s, had been in jail since last August and their bail requests were repeatedly turned down by a Bangkok court. Both had pleaded guilty, a common practice in lese majeste cases, in December.
In announcing the verdict, a Bangkok Criminal Court judge said the play contained content that insulted and defamed the monarchy and was shown in front of a large number of spectators.
Pawinee Chumsri, the pair’s lawyer, told reporters the pair was not likely to appeal.
The military-installed government that seized power from an elected administration in last May’s coup has made defending the monarchy a priority in an effort to ensure stability toward the end of 87-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s reign.